Monday, November 13, 2017

The Battle of Teugen-Hausen in 6mm using Fast Play Grande Armee rules

With our normal host Dallas busy with work last week, Greg and I decided that it was time to further amortize my 6mm Napoleonic forces with another game.   Since it has been a while since the last game, we decided a small battle would be appropriate so we were not struggling with the rules too much in a large game.

Greg being the history buff pulled a gem out of his hat with with The Battle of Teugen-Hausen.  The battle was between the Austrians and French in April of 1809 and focused on some historical issues that were common throughout the period:  French aggressiveness bordering on over confidence and Austria's poor leadership and indecisiveness.  Both played out well in this battle.

We used the Fast Play Grande Armee rules, which have several very flavorful features that played out in this game.  To recreate the leaders involved in the battle we assigned 1 command die to the Austrians and 2 to the French.  Davout was a +2 leader, and his officers were +1, while Hohenzollern was +1 and his officers were 0's.

A brief historical overview:  In mid-April Davout moved his corps southeast, attempting to link up with his Bavarian allies. Dense woods and rugged terrain limited the scouting, so it was with some surprise that French and Austrian units made contact on April 19. An Austrian corps under Prince Friedrich of Hohenzollern stumbled upon Davout, and the Austrian commander sent word to Archduke Charles that he had found the French. Hohenzollern requested the support of the IV Corps, as well as the archduke's grenadier reserve corps.    

The French started with Davout and Saint-Hilaire's Division on the table near Teugen.  Mean while the Austrians started with Hohenzollern cozy and settled in Hausen with Vukassovich's division forward in the woods.  To win the French needed to either break the Austrians or get troops over the stream into Hausen or off the table via point E.  The Austrians had to either break the French or hold them achieving their objectives.  The game would last 6 turns.

The French started by moving forward in their first pulse of turn 1 (FPGA plays out over turns and pulses, each turn being between 1 and 4 pulses) towards the woods.  The Austrians played cagey and pulled back in the woods.  This continued for the entire first turn as the Austrians were not keen on fighting it out alone.

Turn two saw more action start to get underway as both the French and the Austrians got re-reinforcements to join the battle.

The Austrians had two divisions show up to help.  On the first pulse of turn 2, St. Julien's division moved up into the town to cross the stream and join the battle forming in the woods, which Lusignan's division went left of the town to stop the French from reaching point E (one of the French's victory conditions).  The French moved Friant's division up from point B towards the woods to help break through.

Here is where things went badly for the Austrians, but fittingly so historically.  St. Julien once in the town, refused to leave!  FPGA works with a friction system using dice to determine what you can actually do with each division.  Ideally you want between 7+10 on two dice and you can do whatever you want, good commanders give you a +1 to help get into that range, and good Army leaders give you bonus dice to use so that you can roll up to 2 additional dice and pick any 2 of the 4 you want to get the numbers you need.  However, the Austrians lacked extra dice to assign and had to roll 2 dice only for 4 pulses over 2 turns, and had St. Juliens division sit in the town taking violin lessons or something, then retreat for some unknown reason (maybe to avoid paying a bar tab?) before finally moving through the town a full 2 turns later!

Meanwhile in the center of the table, the French force advanced into the Austrian line and combat started. 

Over the next several pulses and turns, the combat raged back and forth in the woods.  Units made contact, shots were fired, attackers were forced back.  However, nothing really significant took place.  There were very few casualties as combat in the woods required 6's to hit, and neither side could roll more than 1 in a combat.  The French got an additional division of reinforcements on turn 3 that came in from point C and started making moves straight across the table to point E.

Turn 4 arrived, and the Austrians had finally setup a solid defensive line and were prepared to attack.  They also were begging the Duke for his grenadier reserves to hold the line and push back the French, but he remained indecisive about committing his finest men.

The Austrians launched an attack, or tried to...  Once again their poor command structure let them down on one flank where they attacked and pushed back the French in pulse 1, then suddenly decided to retreat!  In the center they decided to hold instead of pushing forward when they had an advantage.  The minor fighting continued though as the French launched an assault, only to be pushed back once again.

The time spent delaying on the Austrian side favoured the French, as their command structure was not so indecisive and instead of being concerned that things might not be perfect, pushed forward aggressively.  Friant's division moved straight past the conflict in the woods in an attempt to flank the Austrian force and push through to the town. Turn 5 once again saw the Archduke refuse to release the Austrian Grenadiers which were sorely needed at this point.

After so may combats in the game were only 1 point of damage would be caused, the French hammered into the Austrians and caused a stunning 5 points in one go, annihilating a stand in one combat.  This also set them up to cross the stream and win the game.

The Austrians had one last go at the French, trying to push them back with a lone cavalry charge, since YET AGAIN the Archduke refused to acknowledge that his Grenadiers were actually required.  The attack had no hope of success and was only done so that St. Julien would not have to face the music from the Archduke for having lost the battle (or pay that bar tab from earlier).

The outcome while demoralizing to the Austrians was historically accurate.  The poor leadership on the Austrian side had cost them what could have been an easy victory several times throughout the battle.  The French had very few command failures and pushed through to their objectives.  The French did loose a few units while pushing through the woods, but not enough to cause serious concerns.  There were more times than described in the battle report that the Austrians had something lined up, then failed to act on it due to poor command rolls.  They would either fail entirely and have to hold, or worse fall back for no bloody reason at all, right after inflicting wounds on French units! 

Overall the game was really enjoyed by everyone and once again proved that we really need to play more Napoleonic games as no matter the outcome they are always fun.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Few More Mahdists

Fresh Mahdist troops prepare for rebellion in my kitchen...
Another unit is ready to join my growing force of 28mm Mahdist warriors! There is a warband group of warriors and another group of individual riflemen to act as skirmishers. The figures are 28mm metal castings from the incredible line of miniatures sold by Perry Miniatures.

A mix of weapons on the bases...a rifle, spears and a swordsman

The small group of individually-based riflemen will join the slowly expanding group of skirmish troops that will accompany the Mahdist main force to battle.

The Mahdist command base sports a banner downloaded from a free online flag source

The warband is a mix of figures painted years ago, topped up with some additional figures I painted recently in the wake of finally completing my re-basing efforts for this collection. I have tried to blend the weapons a little bit, with a mix of spears, swords and even a couple of riflemen here and there.  There are 29 figures total in the unit, ready to bravely assault the forces of the British Empire, and overall there are now four full "warband" units at the core of my Mahdist forces.

Mahdist riflemen ready for skirmishing

You can never have too many Madhists for a Sudan game, but I'm pretty pleased with how the collection is coming together, bit by bit, building into the sort of bunch that will be able to be part of a full-on Black Powder game.  I'm looking forward to getting these fellows on the table for a scrap, hopefully sometime this fall.  Imagining the searing heat of the Sudan might warm us as winter prepares to blanket Winnipeg once again...

Monday, November 6, 2017

20 Marine Imperial Fist Legion Tactical Squad

I finished this unit about a week ago, but only got around to basing them today. It took me a long time to complete this unit, but I'm happy with the results. Next up is a Terminator squad, Contemptor and terminator Centurion. I'm hoping they go a bit quicker.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Crystalline Winter Terrain Project

The one thing I find kind of odd about most sci-fi games is that they take place on terrain that looks JUST. LIKE. EARTH. Even back in the RT days the lads used to spiff up their (admittedly rudimentary by today's standards) tables with at least some odd-coloured lichen, to give a minimal impression that we weren't battling over Kansas anymore; but nowadays it seems like green grass and leafy trees are pretty much the norm.

I admit that I am a prime offender! Our tables generally look very good indeed (if I do say so myself) but they mostly look like temperate Earth. Fine if you're playing an historical wargame (great even!) but when you're in a galaxy far, far away or out among the Ghoul Stars and the like, is the terrain you're battling over really gonna look like, say, rural France?

The original idea was to pick up some crystalline shard terrain to spiff up my winter terrain mat for Horus Heresy duty. Gale Force 9 made a good-looking set for their Battlefield in a Box range, but sadly these appear to be out of production and unavailable even on the secondary market.

However, poking around on eBay, I found numerous vendors in China selling real quartz crystal shards, for use in jewelry, magic wands (!) and the like. And they are CHEAP - like about $4 shipped for a handful. Once they arrived, execution was straightforward - cut plasticard bases to the desired shape, superglue crystals to the base, apply texture gel, paint it your desired earth colour, paint the snowy bits white, apply snow flakes, static grass and tufts, and DONE.

Here are the crystal bases with some Games Workshop Genestealers for scale. Scary!

I purchased three 100g packs of crystals and used pretty much all of them in this project.

The terrain works great for 15mm too - maybe even better than 28mm. I reckon they would look pretty cool in a 6mm game as well.

It's not as if I don't have figures to paint, oh no. So the time and energy spent on this terrain mini-project certainly could have been put to use in painting a couple more Iron Warriors, or Adeptus Mechanicus guys, or WW2 Germans, or Indian braves, or... or... but the simple fact is that sometimes when I get an idea, I just want to run with it. Can't wait to get these out in an actual game!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Scattering of Mahdist Skirmishers

Mahdist riflemen - 28mm plastic figures from Perry Miniatures
Since I finally dug out my 28mm Sudan collection earlier this month and finished re-basing these models (a project I started back in 2013), I find I am inspired to add to the collection while I'm working with it.  With that in mind, this post features a small group of Mahdist skirmishers I painted up recently. The warriors are armed with rifles. They are 28mm plastic models from Perry Miniatures. 

Another view of the Mahdist riflemen
During their revolt in the Sudan the Mahdists made extensive (if not altogether effective) use of rifles captured from the diverse Egyptian garrisons they overwhelmed and punitive expeditions they obliterated during the course of their uprising. They turned these rifles on the final Egyptian garrison in Khartoum and on the diverse British relief forces which went into action in a vain attempt to relieve General Gordon in that garrison.  While the rifles were not decisive in any encounters with British and allied forces, accounts from the period consistently mention harassing fire from Mahdist skirmishers - sometimes coming around the clock, through the night, into the zareba encampments.  This small group of riflemen will represent one of those harassing-style forces on the table.

I tried to give some variety to the cloth on the Mahdist fighters
While these plastic Mahdist figures from the Perrys have been available for several years now, these figures were still new to me and it is the first time I worked with them.  The box has enough parts for 40 miniatures inside (a great value).  While most of these figures are to be built carrying spears as their armament (and I'm pretty mixed on plastic spears), there are enough extra figures to put together a few riflemen, so I thought I would make them into a skirmishing unit.

These plastic figures are pretty easy to assemble, and paint up very quickly! These were the first Mahdist figures I had painted in many years, so I was a little rusty, but once I figured out the colour palette again the old experience came back to the brush quickly, and they painted up pretty fast.

Ready to fight the British oppressors
When it comes to colonial gaming, I don't think you can ever have enough Mahdist figures available - especially for Black Powder games!  I have more Mahdist warriors on the painting table right now, and hope to add another unit (or even two!) to my 28mm Mahdist collection before moving on to other painting subjects.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Crusading Clash - First Game of SAGA

A Syrian Emir prepares to lead his host to glorious victory over the Frankish invaders

Last week the Conscripts tried "SAGA: Crescent and The Cross" on the table for the first time.  I had completed a four-point warband of Crusaders back in the late winter of this year, and finished a four-point warband of Saracens to oppose them this fall.  It was time to get them on to the table for a showdown in the Holy Land, and last Thursday was the day!

Among our gaming group Byron is the only one who had any significant experience playing the unique "SAGA" rules, although he had not yet tried the "Crescent and The Cross". I was the next most-senior SAGA player - and I had tried it once, four or five years ago, with a game of Vikings vs. Saxons that my good friend Curt had hosted for me in Regina.  So safe to say that overall our group was still very new to the SAGA experience.

A view of the board at the beginning of the game - nobody wanted to touch the uneven ground in the wadi...the Saracens are on the left, and the Crusaders on the right.
And it is a unique gaming experience. SAGA fuses a basic and easy skirmishing system with an at-times-complex system of abilities and activations derived from a faction's "battle board".  Dice are rolled and allocated by players who must balance the use of the dice to activate the different elements of their warband with the use of special abilities that will help their warband succeed.  The "battle board" serves as a sort of dash board to command the warband.

Christian Knights move out...

Crossbows on the flank in cover, while stout spearmen hold the centre of the Crusader lines...

We lined up a very basic starting scenario, imagining a clash somewhere east of Jerusalem in the early 12th century. The victors would be the warband who gained more "slaughtering victory points" than the other. Sounds about right to me! Bill, Byron and Frederick played the Saracen warband, while Dallas, Mike and Dave V took up the Crusaders' cause.

Mounted archers ride forward on the Saracen flank.
While new to our group, I know SAGA is enormously popular in the gaming world, so folks reading this might chuckle that a pair of four-point warbands managed to occupy six gamers and one guy with charts. But given how new we were to the SAGA system, it worked out pretty well.  I certainly enjoyed watching the group planning discussions as the SAGA dice were rolled and decisions were made about which groups to activate, or which abilities needed to be used. Those decisions are the core of the game, and are where a lot of the fun lies.

Ghulams prepare to charge the Crusaders...

The Crusaders prepare to respond...
Bang! Lances are splintered, shields shattered etc...
The opponents opted for some careful missile fire early on, while maneuvering their Knights and Ghulams for charges to come later.  And charge they did! The Christian Knights crashed into the Ghulams on a couple of consecutive turns.  Blood spilled to the sand of the Holy Land as Knights and Ghulams fell in battle.  The Saracen horse archers, meanwhile, got the better of the Crusader crossbowmen, and the Crusader spearmen were not able to make much of an impression on the Saracen horse archers.

The forces clash! More fatigue tokens and fewer Knights are the result...

Ghulams holding the line...
The Warlord steadies his lines of Ghulams...
The Saracen players made the best of their battle board abilities, which seemed to me to be, in many cases, gambles of fate, which didn't always work out for them.  The Crusaders, for their part, tried to leverage their own powerful battle board, but found themselves restricted at times by the need to roll for "virtues" before getting access to some of the stronger capabilities.

Crossbows emerge to shower the Saracens with bolts...
But it doesn't seem to have an effect...
The Saracen spearmen stand ready, but were not required at the end of the matter...

In the end it was a narrow victory for the Saracen warband, and God was left to sort out the souls of the departed warriors...

I'm pretty sure we still screwed up some rules, but overall SAGA is a lot of fun. It is not (and does not try to be) an exacting or careful historical simulation.  It is more of a dramatic, story-driven clash. As I told the group last week, I have been wanting to play a miniatures game set in the Crusades for a long, long time, as the period is so fascinating for me. So it was a real thrill to finally see one happen! 

My terrier Spencer is exhausted from all of the gaming action, so he takes a nap on the floor :)

Hopefully we can try SAGA again in the future. In the interim, I'll try and bulk out the warbands a little bit, as six-point warbands would fill the table up a little more, and give the players some different options in terms of structuring their warband units differently (like a 12-model unit of warriors, for example).

Thanks again to everyone for coming out to play and try the new (to us) rules!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The British Arrive - Sudan Re-Basing Part 2

"Steady lads!" The 28mm British forces ready to fight the Mahdists in the Sudan...or in my kitchen...

This is part two of the long, long, long-delayed completion of the re-basing of my 28mm Mahdist Revolt collection. Here are the British infantry forces and commanders on their new bases.

For the British infantry I wanted to go with a very narrow frontage for the figures.  They were generally in squares for actions in the Sudanese theatre, and were greatly outnumbered in the battles. Your firing line is going to be compact, the men close together, firing volley after volley, hoping the enemy will break...I hoped the figures would represent that, so the frontage is narrow - 15mm per foot model.   With 24 models per infantry unit that works out to a frontage of 180mm in line, which is very reasonable for battles on 6' x 4' tables.

I'm pleased with how it turned out - narrow enough to give the solid look to the battle line, but still large enough to take up a decent amount of space on the table, and not too large in contrast of the Mahdist warbands.

Screw gun and crew hold the flank near the stout members of the KRRC.
My original effort had centered around painting the units involved with General Graham's forces who were based at the port of Suakin on the Red Sea coast.  These units engaged Mahdist forces in the battles of El Teb and Tamai in the spring of 1884.  My first British infantry were a group of Yorks & Lancs (who could probably represent one of several units present, as several battalions had similar-looking uniforms and kit issued to them), then a group of Cameron Highlanders (at least, I think they were Camerons...I tried my best with the tartan.  Maybe they are Gordons? But they are not the Black Watch) and associated support.  This would include the notorious Gatling and Gardner guns, and a screw gun.

General Graham and assorted supporting officers to represent the overall command and brigade commanders in "Black Powder"

In 2013 I worked to expand the British side of my collection.  I painted up a group to represent the King's Royal Rifle Corps, who had black leather belts and pouches.  I also added some cavalry - figures representing the 10th Hussars. There is a mix of figures with sabres and with improvised lances in that unit. The British cavalry found themselves turning to these lances in order to deal with terrain that, while nominally "flat" and "open", could often be very broken and difficult for cavalry troopers trained to operate under European battle conditions.  The Madhist warriors would make things tricky, lying low and lying down and making it hard for the mounted troopers to hit them. Lances were a solution...

One of the iconic pieces of this setting - a Gardner gun - deadly for Mahdists until it jams! Some naval ratings are present to the left and behind the gun.

Gatling gun in position at the corner of a brigade square.

In 2013 I also wanted to work toward some games set on the Gordon Relief Expedition, particularly the engagements at Abu Klea and Abu Kru involving the British Camel Corps. To this end I painted a group of figures to represent one of the Camel Regiments present in that column. These are some of my favourite figures from the setting, as they sport things like neck curtains, goggles, ammunition bandoleers and sword bayonets that offer a unique look.

The Yorks & Lancs (and potentially a number of other units) on their new bases.
Highlanders prepare to deliver a volley!

As "Black Powder" is a pretty easy-going set of rules, I didn't need to re-base the gun teams right now.  I might do that at some point, but as a blog visitor Murdock pointed out in the comment section of the previous post, the round base kind of lines up with the map symbol for artillery - I like that! At any rate, everything is measured easily from the barrel so these pieces will be fine, and they stay as originally painted back in 2007!

The 10th Hussars, sporting an assortment of weapons.

Another view of the Hussars...turns out I had painted 13 models, which is kind of...odd...anyway, one extra lad at the back.

This force is not totally coherent...the Camel Corps figures would not have seen action around Suakin for example, while the Highlanders and Hussars would not have been present with the Desert Column.  I don't think the Rifles were there either...but I'm not sure - the elements of the Desert Column are always a little confusing as the Regiments in question were pulled from volunteers from various units, including cavalry regiments and the Guards regiments.

But anyway, coherence aside, it will do for "Black Powder" games! Hopefully these lads will see action in the sands of the Sudan on the gaming table sometime this fall.